Sunday, February 28, 2010

Roots-What They Do

Grilled Cheese Johnson breaks his strike on posting on our little blog (after we vetoed a jamandaquarter) and returns to bring the heat. The Roots join Outkast and Manu Chao as the only artists with two posts. They do so with a real jamandahalf, "What They Do."

As I sit here at my desk, bored to tears by the Supreme Court opinion I am currently reading, I contemplate burning all my textbooks, saying goodbye to my friends and family, and moving to the forest to live in a cave.  It’s Friday night and my spring break has just begun. Yet instead of celebrating at a local bar with my brethren, I have my face buried in a book.  It’s enough to drive a young man to tears.  Just as I am ready to throw my laptop out of my 10th story window and follow it head-first, something magical happens.  The shuffle feature on my itunes throws on a legendary jam and a half, and all my anger and frustration melts away like butter.  A wave of calm washes over me, as if I had just finished my 10th Guinness on a sunny July afternoon in San Diego.  All must be right in the world, I think, because at some point in time, some people got together and made this song.

That song, ladies and gentlemen, is none other than “Bad Romance” by the legendary Lady Ga—I’m sorry, what blog is this? “Jam-and-a-half?”  I thought this was “Terrible-pop-hits-that-are-ruining-our-society?” No? Well then…

That song, ladies and gentlemen, is none other than “What They Do” by the legendary Roots.  The Roots are one of hip-hop’s most prolific, longest-running acts, with eight studio albums to their name and a ninth on the way.  Formed in Philadelphia in the late 80s, The Roots are one of hip-hop’s few live bands, boasting drums, guitars, bass, and a plethora of other instruments to create their organic sound.  Their lead MC, born as Tariq Potter but known as Black Thought, is one of the greatest of all time.  Combine his skills on the mic with the band’s signature sound and you have a foolproof equation for some good ass music.  This is none more apparent than during one of their legendary live performances, which resembles more of an all-out rock & roll jam session than it does a hip hop show.  If The Roots are in your area, I advise you to pay the price on the ticket and go see them at all costs; you will not be disappointed.

This particular jam is off their 3rd studio album, Illadelph Halflife (1996), and features Black Thought dropping knowledge about his love of the art and its continued demise at the hands of the industry.  The lyrics are complimented by a creamy mayonnaise of guitar strings and keyboard riffs designed to stimulate your ear drums.  After “blessing the track lushly” with his rhymes for 4 and a half minutes, Black Thought yields to the power of the band. The guitar and bass line take the song out for the final 90 seconds, leaving music fans of all genres satisfied.  I recommend this track to all those looking to unwind during stressful times, or when just cold kickin it like your name was Moose Halpern.  You can’t go wrong.

But don’t stop there!  I urge you to check out all of their music, as they truly are one of the most talented acts of the past two decades.  After listening to Illadelph Halflife, purchase 1998’s Things Fall Apart for another sampling of their Grammy-winning sound.  Then move on to 2004’s The Tipping Point for something slightly different but equally dope.  I’ve included bonus jams from each of these albums as a nice holiday treat. Now I know what you’re thinking—“it’s not a holiday!”—but enjoy nonetheless.  May the following tracks bring joy to all readers around the globe.  Peace

Bonus Jam:  Star (from The Tipping Point)

Bonus Jam #2: You Got Me (Featuring Erykah Badu & Eve) (from Things Fall Apart)

The Monthly Mix #1

For this new feature we're going to post all the jams that we've written on in the last month in one convenient spot. For some great music, at least to our ears, click here.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Legend of The Monterey Pop Festival: A small step for the Civil Rights movement


It is a distinct honor and pleasure, to not only introduce my good friend Jeff Cairney, but to post a fantastic piece of scholarly insight. It is of quintessential importance to tell the tale of this meteoric day in Monterey,  as we continue to explore the powers of what music can do, both to and for people. Jeff, you're the man, hope to hear from you again soon.

The Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 was perhaps the most iconic event of the hippie movement of 1960s America. It began the “summer of love” on three sunny days in California. It also became a template for future musical festivals such as the less successful (but ironically more well known) Woodstock festival of 1969.1 Monterey represented the innocence of the counterculture: the peace, love, unity and tolerance channeled through Bob Dylan and their assumed physical accompaniments of sunshine, long hair and recreational drugs. Even the policemen were seen with flowers in their helmets.

Monterey was the first major appearance of The Who and Jimi Hendrix outside of the UK. In fact, the two acts, scheduled to perform back-to-back, flipped a coin to see who would go on first because neither wanted to follow the other (The Who was already a very popular act but guitarist Pete Townsend, having seen the up-and-coming Hendrix live, considered him a God and impossible to follow). The Who won the toss, went on first and completely destroyed their instruments to end their set. Though such a spectacle is now known as a bit of a trademark for the band, it wasn’t then in the US. It shocked and scared much of the happy-go-lucky audience. What’s worse (but better in retrospect), Hendrix soon followed inspired by the energy left on stage by The Who and, with an acid soaked bandana on his head and mind, showed America that his guitar is not an instrument but an extension of himself…then he set it on fire, smashed it, and threw its remains into the crowd.

At that time in California, the Mamas & the Papas (from Southern California) and Jefferson Airplane (from Northern California) were the big acts. (They even organized the show with help from The Beach Boys and members of the Beatles). For Californians and perhaps all Americans of the hippie movement, these two bands best embodied the themes they related to. But after Monterey these bands would never again draw such veneration. Not that they performed badly; their acts—and acts they were—simply could not hold up to the raw talent of the up-and-coming. It was a moment when music was loved as music, not as image. And live music was a conduit for self expression rather than a recorded product reenacted on stage.

Other than Hendrix, two such up-and-coming raw talents at Monterey who were making their first major public appearances were Janis Joplin and Otis Redding. Between swigs of SoCo Janis Joplin belted soulful cries that would immediately get her signed to Columbia records by the label’s president, Clive Davis. (Joplin signed the contract on the condition that Davis sleep with her—and he did right there in his office). In Joplin’s performance of “Ball and Chain”, Mama Cass of the Mamas & the Papas can be seen watching in utter awe and amazement—acknowledgement that her band’s reign was fleeting. This is the event that started Joplin’s career, only to be cut short 3 years later with a heroin overdose.

But of all that happened at Monterey, for all it represented, perhaps the most amazing performance was from Otis Redding. Redding and his band were an all black act performing “black” (soul) music to an essentially all white audience a year before MLK was assassinated. They went on last after the big act, Jefferson Airplane, had finished the set everyone came to hear. The crowd began to thin out and it was clear that they did not come to hear soul music. So 26 year old Redding quickly hit the stage and told his band to play the first song “Shake” twice as fast as usual. The percussion and horns hit, Redding wailed, and the crowd returned astonished. Music as human expression transcended personal preference and familiarity. And it’s clear why the crowd was so captivated: Redding’s voice is perhaps the most soulful that ever existed in popular music. The way he hits notes epitomizes and evokes emotion and is backed by sheer power. And his song “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” performed at Monterey is an excellent example of this voice we lost in a plane crash just 6 months later. Before beginning the ballad, Otis, an unexpected spokesman of the hippie movement, engaged the audience: “This is the love crowd, right? We all love each other, don’t we?” The crowd enthusiastically agreed, affirming the need and desire to reciprocate love to all members of the human race regardless of color or culture. Thus, with this unexpected win for tolerance, for love, for Civil Rights no less, Redding’s performance marked a significant moment in not one but two complementary movements in American history.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Washed Out-New Theory

Our friend and fellow blogger Lydia Cruz has some serious musical knowledge and wanted to share a song by one of her favorite artists, Washed Out. Thanks a lot Lydia, we hope to hear more from you soon.

When Ernest Green moved back home with his parents in June of last year, no one could have predicted that only a few months stood between obscurity and buzzworthy musicianship. Adults living at home face plenty of stigmatism, and America doesn’t generally crown pop stars bunking down in their childhood bedrooms. But even artists can crave the comforts of home, and the move would ultimately prove itself a renaissance.

Despite Green’s previous experimentation with ambient, dance, and even hip-hop music, it was the return to his rural Georgian roots that sparked his production of lo-fi synthpop, reflecting both the extent of his talent and environmental influence. Ernest quickly settled on the new, nonsensical moniker “Washed Out”, and with the help of a small Charleston-based record label called Mirror Universe, he released a limited amount of material on (wait for it) cassette.

Just like Bon Iver/Justin Vernon was inspired by an isolated Wisconsin cabin (For Emma, Forever Ago, 2008), and Jason Lytle was enkindled by his relocation to Montana (Yours Truly, the Commuter, 2009), Washed Out quickly became the artistic reflection of a laidback, peach-filled, Georgian summer. With a sonically distinct nod to the eighties - a tasty acid groove that hits like a soothing dose of Nyquil and recalls a refreshing, rolled-down window breeze – Washed Out breathes new life into the best part of the John Hughes era.

I have to single out “New Theory” from Washed Out’s Life of Leisure EP as a truly influential jam. The lyrics are simple, yet powerful. The rhythmic/synth production grabs a hold quickly but clandestinely, lulling the listener into a vivid, dreamlike state of auditory adventure. And like any great dream, you, the participant fear the inevitable ending, the all too-rapid return to consciousness.

Lydia Cruz

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Young MC - Bust A Move


There was once a time, some call it the late 80s, when the future of the rap game lay itself down to rest in the hands of up and coming rapper/writer Young MC.  He had already penned the popular classics "Wild Thing" and "Funky Cold Medina" for his homie Tone Loc, and his own debut album was highly anticipated.  Thats when Young knew he had to elevate his game: he brought in the transcendental talent of Red Hot Chili Peppers' bassist Flea, and included some ethereal vocals from Crystal Blake on what would be his first single... "Bust A Move". 

What ensued was a jam so impossibly smooth that it could not be stopped.  Not until it could start every party, not until it could top every chart, not until it pulled down hip hops ultimate prize...respect.  Young rolls on the beat sticking tightly to his flow helping to create a building up effect on each verse.  Young's mastery of rhythm allows him to explore the same cadence with different rhymes the whole song through, providing fresh and hilarious images (well portrayed by the video) throughout. In a way "Bust A Move" was more than just inspiration to holler at that girl, it was the battle cry for Young, it was his time to bust a move and solidify himself as a great rapper.  The beginning of a great career.

We should celebrate this Jam and a Half, this spark, for the great track that it is.  That initial spark that may have burned a little too bright.  I dont blame Young, its clear that his rhyming skill was of the top tier, but the direction that hip hop was moving was away from his lighthearted party style.  The 90's became the era of gangster rap, at least in the popular venue, and Young could never duplicate the incredible success of "Bust A Move".  However, we should never forget the serious talent of Young MC, a man who didn't need a false persona, didn't need graphic lyrics, didn't need anything but a funky beat to shoot the gift like a master.

Download here

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tommy James and the Shondells-Crimson and Clover

Let me take you guys back a couple years. November 1968, you're chilling at home, listening to the radio, when all of a sudden the dj says that the next song he's playing is "Crimson and Clover" by Tommy James and the Shondells. Life for you at that moment is about as groovy as it gets.

Tommy James and the Shondells (helluva name) had a wild ride. In 1960, when Tommy James was 13 years old they recorded a song, "Hanky Panky," that would become a number one hit, in 1966! After breaking up in '61, the song was unearthed five years later and soon became #1 nationwide. Tommy pulled together a band, toured the nation, and began a whirlwind 4 year career which saw them release 10 albums. The band ended in 1970 after Tommy was pronounced dead after overdosing on stage. BUT, in a miraculous event in rock n roll history he was REVIVED by the rock gods to keep making jamandahalfs, although he ended up betraying them, deciding that he didn't like the recording process. The band also turned down playing at Woodstock! An unreal career,* which, most importantly to us, resulted in this jamandahalf.

I honestly have no idea how this song made it into my library. Not a clue. Music has a way of doing that. But I do know that Crimson and Clover is one of the wildest songs I have ever heard. A mean guitar riff, strange lyrics (with a million different interpretations), the wahwah effect on the guitar. Tommy and the Shondells take you on a 5 minute musical journey to outer space, chasing Mars with a kaleidescope. And when you think the guitar solo can't build anymore, it drops, and at 4:25 the 1960's autotune kicks in, solidifying "Crimson and Clover" as one of the funkiest creations of man.

*In a bizarre side note, The Shondells accompanied Hubert Humphrey doing his Presedential campaign. To show his thanks, Hubert wrote the linear notes to the album featuring this song.

Download Here

The Monthly Mix: Brought To You By JamandaHalf

Hey Everyone...

We got some wise buddies with some wiser ideas, and today we announce the "Monthly Mix," a compilation of the songs we write about each month that we will send you the 31st of every month. To get on the list, all you have to do is email with your email address, and then get ready to have a funky, random mix of the jammiest of jams in your inbox once a month.

Moose and I got some love from our school's student-run website as "CMC Celebs*" for this blog haha...Moose has been signing autographs and little babies foreheads since so he hasn't had time to post this, but if you want a fun read check out the link below:

Keep checking back, got a lot of good music coming at ya in the next couple of days...


*Thanks Kelsey
(Yes, that's Kareem Abdul Jabbar. You're right, that IS the hardest picture of all time)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears - I'm Broke

Ainsley has returned to continue dropping jam sandwiches. This time he takes us to the funky town of Austin, That's Texas Baby. Thanks Ains, and keep feeding the hungry.

The year is 2010, but the message is timeless. Everywhere you look, people are struggling to find jobs, put food on the table, and scrape together a few bucks to keep the landlord happy. Times are tough throughout the country and Black Joe Lewis wants to make sure you know that Austin, TX is no exception.

For those of you unfamiliar with the sweet sounds of Austin's Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, I would run (not walk) and grab yourself a copy of 2009's Tell 'Em What Your Name Is! and partake in a funk-tinted epic that at times plays like James Brown backed by The Family Stone.

I really could have picked any song off of Tell 'Em to act as an introduction to The Honeybear's particular brand of the blues, but I'm Broke's simple, yet universal, message makes it a clear standout. Whether it reads to you as an outcry against the socioeconomic situation of southern blacks, an ode to burger-flippers and small time hustlers, or simply a well-crafted outlet of recession-induced angst, Black Joe doesn't care. As long as you're nodding your head, shaking your ass, and screaming in unison (particularly at about the 3:20 mark), he knows that you're hearing him.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Slickers - Johnny Too Bad


Often times people misinterpret reggae music: they label it as a product of weed culture, as lacking substantial themes, as all sounding the same...if you are one of these people (which I know you are not) prepare to free yourself from ignorance.  The Slickers may not be one of the best known groups out there, but they achieved a certain level of success behind this super jam "Johnny Too Bad."  Following its release, they were forever immortalized when their song was used in Perry Henzel's 1972 film The Harder They Come starring reggae legend Jimmy Cliff.  The film introduced me to The Slickers as well as other dope artists like Desmond Dekker, Scotty, and The Maytals when I saw it back in my younger youth.  This article may be about a Jam and a Half but it could easily be a "Flic and a Half" as The Harder They Come masterly portrays the sentiments and themes its soundtrack presents.

"Johnny Too Bad" presents a youth that has turned to a life of crime, as well as the social implications of the culture that such choices 8 lines!  I dare you to name another genre that can get a point across in less.  But while the lyrical material may be heavy, The Slickers keep the jam light with a rocksteady style characteristic of the late 1960's Jamaica.  Add in a serious organ solo and you have rhythmic piece of soulful social commentary.  So enjoy the track, and all reggae, for the fantastic music that it is; and if you get a chance find a copy of The Harder They Come.  As a forewarning, you might not be able to understand any of the words in the movie, in fact, unless you are from Jamaica you wont understand any of it (outside of the music).  But the soundtrack prefaces the scenes of the movie to give you an understanding of the plot, and either way the flic is so dope that you dont even need to know what the hell they're saying. Trust us.

Download Here

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Artist Behind the Music #1: Matt Stevens

Jamandahalf has come a ways since I first started this back in late September: Moodawg hopped on and became a integral part of this, we've had a lot of guest contributors write about the music they love, and now for the first time we highlight an artist who saw the blog and wanted to get involved. This is the first (hopefully of many) "Artist Behind the Music," a feature I'm really excited about where we talk to musicians about the music they create.

Matt Stevens is a British acoustic guitar player hailing from North London. Listening to his music one would think that he's got a fat crew of people playing with him. But Matt's on an epic solo mission, and using only a guitar and 2 pedals, uses layers of looped chords and riffs that mold Spanish rhythms with flashes of hard rock and punk to create an amazing and unique sound. Matt tours England and recently came out with his debut album "Echo" (which you can find here), but what I found most fascinating is watching his live videos. Seeing him put together the different chords, riffs, and rhythms, lays bare the creative process in a way that us as music lovers don't really get to see normally. Really funky stuff. I asked him how he got started and what inspires him, and he replied:

What Inspires Me

"20 years ago I was a 14 year old kid with terrible hair and a cheap guitar. I was looking for someone to teach me to play. When i was young there was no internet and it was very hard to get hold of guitar teaching books that weren't all how to play Twinkle, Twinkle little star etc, especially living in the middle of nowhere like I did.  Trust me, its better now.

I was lucky that the teacher I got was a guy called Richard Beaumont, in his 30's(which i remember thinking was old but probably around my age now) and playing an incredible twin neck electric guitar.  On my first lesson he taught me "Iron Man" by Black Sabbath and I never looked back.  I was the never the best natural guitar player but I worked crazy hard, 8 hours a day because I wanted it to be good more than anything.  

Over the next few years I learned modes, chords, indian ragas and odd timings. Now you can get a lot of this information off the internet but back then this was rare stuff. Richard taught with a passion and enthusiasm that motivated me to want to be a musician capable of hitting his relentlessly high standards. This was a man who had us playing in ever changing bars of 7/8 and 5/8 when we had only been playing a year!

He introduced me to much of the music I love at a crucial age when music discovery was hard and you couldn't just google artists to hear their music. The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Zappa, Allan Holdsworth, Shostakovich and lots of other amazing stuff.  

He wasn't always easy to please and his standards were really high but he was the person who made me the musician I am today. I studied with him for 10 years and I still review the material we worked on. An inspiration."

Check him out at his website and myspace and support his album (which you can name your own price for). Thanks for getting at us Matt, and we wish you the best of luck...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Welcome Claremont Currents

Just wanted to give a big hello to everyone coming in from Claremont Currents (if you haven't checked it out yet, click here for all your 5C news)...The Mooman and myself started this little blog back in late September as a way to talk about our favorite music. We've had a damn good time talking about some of our favorite jams on here, and have had guest bloggers writing about songs from artists like Big L to subjects like the world's first music video (scroll down to find who was in it).

This site is all about the "jam and a half." Those songs that are for whatever reason a cut above the rest. From the first post, a jamandahalf is:

"... a song that at one point in time, something, for some reason, made it a jam and a half. You never know when it might hit. It might have been the studying for an exam and hearing a lost gem on your ipod, could be that one song that you wake up to singing, could be something that you hear moose yodeling in the shower and look up on Youtube. Doesn't matter where it's from, where you hear it, or why you're feeling it at that point in time. But once it's been deemed a "jam and a half," it will forever be a "jam and a half."

We'd like this site to be a conversation about good music. If you want to post, or have any ideas, write them in the chat box to the right, or email us at Check out our archives for some great music (at least to our ears) and keep checking back for new songs and new funkiness. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Band - It Makes No Difference


Well its been a cool minute since I dropped my last post so I figured I would take it way back.  The Band, not to be confused with Da Band, are a great example of true rock and roll.  A sound born from blues and country, they never got the popular acclaim that their talent deserved, but in a way that just suits their style.  The Band got started playing back up for Ronny Hawkins, after which amidst searching for their own identity,  Bob Dylan recruited them to play behind him on his '65 and '66 tours.  When they did step out on their own, the name The Band seemed only appropriate as thats what they had been called for years playing behind Hawkins and Dylan.

It Makes No Difference isn't the most characteristic Band song, other than the fact that it emanates soul and flavor, but it does show the incredible range of the band.  Makes No Difference is like a 1960s power ballad, but Rick Danko's metaphors come out strong, smooth, and with so much emotion that its infections.  The Band was introduced to me when my pops showed me The Last Waltz, a Martin Scorsese flic of The Band's last concert in 1978.  Probably the greatest concert movie ever made and certainly the best produced, the Waltz takes you on the journey of the band while kickin some of their dopest cuts.  The show has jams for days but it always seems like Makes No Difference gets sung the loudest regardless of who I watch it with...or maybe I just have a voice that carries.  Either way Marty cut out a verse from the song so Im puttin up the film version and the full version.  Enjoy.

Download Here

Monday, February 8, 2010

Kid CuDi-Pursuit of Happiness (Steve Aoki Dance Remix)

Moodawg would be the first to tell you: we ain't no doctors around these parts. We do know a little bit about music, at least what sounds good to our ears, and one thing I've noticed lately is a shift in musical trends.

I would say that the two biggest trends in music right now are the bending of musical genres, and the heavy influence of electronic music in almost all forms of music right now. An artist that has recently made it big is Kid Cudi, an almost perfect example of my theory. Cudi comes out of Cleavland and moved to Brooklyn when he was 20. His rise to fame came way of his first mixtape "A Kid Named Cudi" which hit blogs in a major way. Cudi represents a twist on Chicago influenced rap that isn't about being the alpha male, being hard, being real, or most of the more stereotypical themes of modern rap music. Cudi talks about his fears, weaknesses, and hopes, and has had his music described as "emo rap." This aint emoscreamodreamo we're talking about, but it's definitely more introspective and aware than a lot of rap out there...

Cudi's "Pursuit of Happiness" is a great introduction to Cudi and the fusion of electronic and hip hop. Over a beat by Ratatat, the New York based electronic duo, Cudi raps about his dreams and nightmares and what making it is all about. Today's jamandahalf, however, is the dance remix by Steve Aoki. Aoki takes the original and infuses it with synths and a throbbing bass, turning a laidback jam into a song that's guaranteed to keep CMC moving for a while. Cudi's debut album got some serious spins in 661L last semester (at least in my room), and with Cudi looking like his next album will bring together even more artists, indicative of a larger movement in music, blending, not mashing, seems to be the way of the future.

Got a takedown notice, sorry for no download link!